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15 Edward Norton Movies That Prove He’s The Most Underrated Actor In Hollywood

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Few breakout stars from the late 1990s who are still well-known today have followed the same career trajectory as Edward Norton. Norton didn’t begin with little roles or appearances in well-known young adult movies. Instead, he made a strong start to his career by collaborating with some of the best directors in the business on a number of critically praised, Oscar-nominated performances.

Because of his reputation as a thorough performer who frequently offers creative input on a movie as a whole, Norton is notable for being fired from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Bruce Banner character. Before leaving the role, Norton had even submitted two ideas for sequels to Marvel because he wanted to take the character in a darker path. Even more impressively, the actor has joined Netflix’s cast of Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out 2,” a murder mystery sequel. The top 15 Edward Norton films are listed below, in order of greatness.

American History X (1998)

One of the ugliest and most unsettling movies ever created exposing the realities of American fascism and the depravity of youth is “American History X.”
It’s also crucial viewing to comprehend the complex issues of racism, generational hatred, and radicalism. Some movies that deal with these extremely delicate topics, especially those that are now older, just don’t hold up in a contemporary setting or take into account the complexity of these concerns. Unfortunately, “American History X” is more relevant now than it has ever been. The precise performance by Edward Norton is a tour de force that befits the significance of the subject.

The film stars Norton as Derek Vinyard, a violent young guy who belongs to a spreading Nazi cult in his neighbourhood. Derek chases down and brutally beats the African Americans to death after seeing them commit a robbery outside his neighbourhood. Years after being apprehended by the authorities and imprisoned, his brother Danny (Edward Furlong) starts to form similar opinions and decides to focus his history studies on Adolf Hitler. The nonlinear plot of the movie follows the travels of both brothers. As a result of the severe treatment he receives in prison, Derek slowly starts to think differently and longs to be freed so he may help his brother follow a similar path.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

Edward Norton played one of his most self-referential characters in Alejandro González Iárritu’s satirical surrealist dark comedy “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” from 2014. The movie depicts him as the extremely temperamental theatre actor Mike Shiner, whose overpowering dedication and pretentiousness causes ongoing difficulties for Riggan Thompson, despite his reputation as being difficult to work with (Michael Keaton). Although it was a great way for Norton to make fun of himself, Mike had depth.

Thompson was previously a well-known Hollywood figure who starred in the hugely successful “Birdman” superhero series. However, he has since had a career dip and is attempting to make a comeback. The short novella “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver will soon be performed on stage, and Thompson has chosen to both direct and star in it. Thompson is forced to locate a last-minute substitute when a practise mishap gravely hurts one of the key actors, and he wants to recruit a prominent name in order to draw attention to his ostensibly doomed play. Finally, he decides on Mike and persuades him to join. Thompson’s anxiety and the challenges encountered on set only grow as a result of Mike’s engagement.

Fight Club (1999)

The 1999 movie “Fight Club” by David Fincher displayed his unsettling stylistic preferences, difficult topics, and convoluted storytelling methods. This may be the reason the movie is so frequently misinterpreted. The movie is actually a sharply critical investigation into why men are lured to violence and the erroneous thinking that fuels radicalization, despite the fact that it was attacked by critics and sceptics on its initial release for being a celebration of toxic masculinity. Without Edward Norton’s excellent portrayal as the movie’s protagonist, none of this critique would have been obvious.

The main character in the movie, initially unknown, is Norton, and his continuous commentary keeps the audience interested in his quest. Knowing that the version of events we’re seeing is based on his interpretation of reality is established when we watch the story from his point of view, which is not only a terrific way to engage in the narrator’s predicament or perspective but also makes the film’s surprising twist more powerful later on. The miserable, unfulfilling existence of the character is expertly captured by Norton, who also explains why the charming thug Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) inspires him so much. Pitt and Norton work quite well together.

Frida (2002)


Although Edward Norton is not your usual leading guy, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, he had already appeared in a number of blockbusters. It came as a bit of a surprise when he accepted a tiny part in the 2002 biopic “Frida.” Salma Hayek portrays Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo in Julie Taymor’s stunning biopic, which centres on the young woman’s coming-of-age tale and her complex lifelong relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina).

Nelson Rockefeller, played by Norton (who also contributed an uncredited rewrite to the script), appears for a crucial scene, and the things that happen while he’s there cause Frida and Diegos’ relationship to deteriorate. Diego is adamant about his political views and refuses to hide his communist sympathies, even if he needs Rockefeller’s money to keep painting (his mural is publicly displayed in Rockefeller Center).

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

“Kingdom of Heaven,” a 2005 Ridley Scott epic about a mediaeval war, was released at a runtime that didn’t do the narrative justice. The story is given an epic dimension in Scott’s significantly stronger director’s cut, which also includes more sequences of Edward Norton’s role. The movie, which takes place in the 12th century, revolves on the French blacksmith Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Bloom), who is reunited with his father Godfrey (Liam Neeson), who is grieving the loss of his wife. Godfrey persuades his son to join the Crusades and take the initiative in the quest to retake the revered Kingdom of Jerusalem just before he succumbs to critical wounds received in battle.

When Balian arrives at the holy city, he discovers that King Baldwin IV (Norton) is a leper and that battle between the city’s soldiers and those of the Muslim monarch Saladin is about to break out (Ghassan Massoud). Due to his physical condition, Norton’s face isn’t even visible on film, but he nevertheless puts on a tremendously captivating performance from behind that silver mask.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Edward Norton gives one of his most heartfelt and true performances in “Moonrise Kingdom.” Wes Anderson’s coming-of-age dramedy from 2012 concentrates on a developing bond between two kids who, although having a naturally naïve viewpoint, are perhaps saner than the problematic adults around them. Sam (Jared Gilman), a young Khaki Scout, develops feelings for Suzy (Kara Hayward), a richer girl, and the two later run away together after professing their love.

Numerous individuals start after the young escapees, but Norton’s Scout Master Randy Ward genuinely cares about Sam. He seeks to locate him before he confronts the repercussions of his actions promised by Suzy’s family because he is aware of his good character and comprehends his frustrations. In order to find Sam, Ward orders his band of devoted Khaki Scouts in a military-style order, and Norton’s too sombre attitude toward the younger cast members is simply entertaining.

Motherless Brooklyn (2019)

It took almost two decades for Edward Norton to head his second film after first directing the comedy “Keeping the Faith” in 2000. In his adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s book “Motherless Brooklyn,” Norton wrote, directed, and starred. He created a remarkably underappreciated period noir mystery that simultaneously serves as a love letter to New York City and a reflection on the difficult racial prejudice at the core of its growth.

A detective with Tourette’s syndrome who is routinely made fun of for his illness is Lionel Essrog (Norton). Private eye Frank (Bruce Willis), who sadly perishes in a battle, is the only person who appears to treat Lionel with the respect he merits and makes use of his critical thinking skills. In an effort to solve the last case his mentor was unable to crack, Lionel, who is utterly crushed, tries to piece together the perpetrators of Frank’s murder. Unknown forces try to silence him.

Primal Fear (1996)

It’s quite challenging to top Edward Norton’s performance in the courtroom thriller “Primal Fear” as a first performance. The challenging part established the unproven Norton as an actor who could take on complicated, dynamic roles that would make the audience think. One of the most famous plot twists in movie history occurs in this movie, and if Norton hadn’t taken the time to make it work with the rest of the narrative from the beginning, it wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful. A brilliant plot twist needs the facts and context that the rest of the movie provides, and Norton makes it completely believable.

Norton portrays altar boy Aaron Stampler, 19, who is charged with killing the priest Archbishop Rushman (Stanley Anderson). The renowned criminal defence attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) decides to take Aaron on as a client because Aaron lacks confidence and has a terrible stutter, which makes his guilt a contentious issue in the community. During his discussion with Aaron, Martin learns that the young man is concealing a significant amount of trauma. Aaron discloses that he has a second personality that goes by the name of Roy. Roy acts in a rough and violent manner in contrast to Aaron’s shyness. Martin must figure out how to explain this complicated disease to a jury despite the fact that he has no control over when he flips between the personalities. Norton does a fantastic job of capturing the rapid changes in behaviour.

Rounders (1998)

The complexities of betting can be too complex to emotionally invest in or suffer from a lack of knowledge, making gambling movies a difficult genre to accurately portray. One of the best gambling movies is “Rounders” from 1998 because it combines meticulous attention to detail with likeable people who actually live the compulsive lifestyle.

The movie centres on law student Mike McDermott (Matt Damon), who plays in clandestine Texas hold ’em tournaments in New York City in between classes. His life is in immediate danger after losing $30,000 to the Russian gangster known as KGB (John Malkovich). Mike is reunited with his childhood friend Lester Murphy (Edward Norton), who has just been released from prison, while he tries to retrieve the money by taking an honest job. Despite Lester’s history of dishonesty and the fact that he is deeply in debt, the two work together to support one another.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Large ensembles with lots of talented performers are a common feature in Wes Anderson movies. Even if some of these movie luminaries only have minor roles, it’s not rare to witness a sizable group of some of the best actors on film in a fast-paced adventure. Edward Norton’s minor role in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” isn’t a reflection poorly on him; rather, it’s a gesture of deference. He is instantly recognisable and conveys Anderson’s quick-witted humorous banter flawlessly.

The movie chronicles the exploits of Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), the flamboyant general manager of an opulent hotel known for his thorough planning of his processes and his close friendships with elderly people. Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), a young lobby boy, is mentored by Gustave, who also encourages him to participate in his exploits. The relationship between Gustave and the elderly Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) quickly becomes strained after she is found dead and Gustave is charged with her murder. Norton plays Albert Henckels, a local police investigative investigator sent to track down the elusive manager Gustave. However, Gustave manages to escape his grasp with Zero. Norton doesn’t turn Henckels into an idiot, but he is always baffled by what is happening and incapable of understanding his main subject. Henckels gets once more entangled in the mayhem in the film’s last act when Gustave fights Madame’s enraged family.

The Illusionist (2006)

It only makes sense that the most romantically themed movie of Edward Norton’s career is also a suspenseful mystery as he has never been a conventional romantic protagonist. Despite being published less than two months before Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige,” the two historical dramas about magicians are entirely different. In contrast to “The Prestige,” which is focused on competing artists, “The Illusionist” tells a delicate story about the relationships between various socioeconomic groups.

As the gifted stage illusionist Eisenheim, played by Norton, who has been in love with the affluent Duchess Sophie Von Teschen (Jessica Biel) since he was a young boy. Eisenheim’s stage performances become more complex as he gets older and struggles with their class divides, looking for a way to connect with her. Chief Inspector Walter Uhl (Paul Giamatti), who is pursuing him after he is implicated in a conspiracy and accused of murder, eventually learns to respect his target.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The superhero movie “The Incredible Hulk,” which came out in 2008 and is now regarded as the MCU’s “black sheep,” achieves a lot of things well in conveying Bruce Banner’s story. The genesis story of Banner was laboriously explored in Ang Lee’s 2003 feature “Hulk,” but “The Incredible Hulk” jumps directly into the action with Banner (Edward Norton) eluding capture in the South American favelas. Making the movie a never-ending chase makes Banner anxious all the time, which he tries to avoid in order to keep from turning into the Hulk.

The movie also provided Banner with a mystery that would allow him to use his superior mind while on the run. While the military uses the Russian operative Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) as their next test subject, Banner looks into the Super Soldier Program within the U.S. Government. At the same time, Betty Ross, his childhood sweetheart, and Banner are reunited (Liv Tyler). As Banner comes to terms with the fact that he will never be able to have a meaningful relationship with Betty, Norton creates a tragic difference inside him. He’s so afraid of releasing the Hulk that he can’t even have close relationships.

The Italian Job (2003)


Although Edward Norton has demonstrated his ability to play complex, even unlikable characters, he rarely plays a villain. He was given the opportunity in the 2003 adaptation of the British heist film classic “The Italian Job” by F. Gary Gray, which does a fantastic job of updating the plot and supplying equally entertaining set pieces. Steve Frazelli, played by Norton, betrays his heist gang and murders John Bridger as a result (Donald Sutherland).

In order to get retribution, Bridger’s daughter Stella (Charlize Theron) and the crew of Charlie Crocker (Mark Wahlberg), Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), Lyle (Seth Green), and Gilligan (Mos Def) search him down. Norton enjoys tearing up the screen as a character who is so heinous it’s almost funny. His persistent tormenting makes Bridger’s untimely death even more upsetting and provides the crew with an emotional motivation for their lavish heist operation. It is more than wonderful to witness Frazelli’s ultimate deception and helplessness.

The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

The narrative of the titular “Hustler” editor is transformed into a surprisingly nuanced exploration of free speech, patriotism, and censorship in Milo Forman’s 1997 film “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” Forman usually handles tales of difficult characters who defy authority, topics that Edward Norton might identify with. The movie’s lead actor, Woody Harrelson, gives one of his best performances on screen, and Edward Norton plays Alan Isaacman, Flynt’s attorney. Norton was able to portray the assiduity and wit of a young lawyer at a young age.

Isaacman respects Flynt’s right to express himself, even though he doesn’t necessarily agree with or appreciate what he does. The claim that Flynt is hostile to America is ironic in Isaacman’s eyes because he views Flynt’s right to publish even the most gruesome and terribly violent material as a fulfilment of his constitutional rights. When Norton is on the floor defending Flynt, he brilliantly demonstrates how Isaacman expresses these points in legalese. Isaacman is upset by Flynt’s frequent crude comments and reckless behaviour, which makes the scenario more humorous.

 

 

The Score (2001)

“The Score,” a 2001 heist thriller by Frank Oz, brought together three generations of unwavering movie giants. Nick Wells (Robert De Niro), a master safecracker and career criminal, is the focus of the movie. He accepts Max’s offer of one final task (Marlon Brando). Max introduces Nick to the young criminal Jack Teller (Edward Norton), and Nick is impressed by the thief’s skill at deception. Jack poses as a mentally challenged janitor in order to break into a very protected area.

The picture is particularly thrilling because of the apparent tension between Nick and Jack. As Nick is extremely snobbish and arrogant and has been in the game for decades, Jack is hardly willing to listen to his advise. Nick is constantly on his toes because to Jack’s creative methods, so his confidence is well-founded. Both men have reason to distrust one another since they believe the other will betray them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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